Journal awards 2015 'best paper' honor to IST's Xiao, Carroll

Stephanie Koons
May 26, 2016

As a doctoral student at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST), Lu Xiao was motivated by a curiosity about how justifying ideas within a group learning environment impacts the decision-making process. Since receiving her doctoral degree from the College of IST in 2008, Xiao has built upon her original research, leading her to win a prestigious award and continue exploring the area of shared rationale as a tenured faculty member at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada.

“Coming to IST really broadened my horizons,” said Xiao, who is currently a visiting scholar at Syracuse University. “I got an opportunity to be exposed to different disciplines, which are equally important to me to pursue my multi-disciplinary research agenda.”

As an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario, Xiao’s research focuses on understanding the effects of different kinds of shared information in group activities, and supporting information-sharing tasks that improve the activities. Her paper, “Shared Practices in Articulating and Sharing Rationale: An Empirical Study,” co-authored by Jack Carroll, distinguished professor of IST, was selected by the editorial review board of the International Journal of e-Collaboration (IJeC) as the best article published in IJeC during the year 2015. The paper was based upon her dissertation research at the College of IST and follow-up work at the University of Western Ontario, including a crowdsourcing experiment with Amazon Mechanical Turk.   

According to Xiao, the practices of justifying ideas to collaborators are largely unexplored yet critical in activities that involve collective problem-solving, such as online deliberations and crowdsourcing activities. Explicit and publicly shared rationale increases people’s knowledge awareness, she said, “making associated shared knowledge more accessible, more useful and more remembered.”

“It took me a long time to identify that topic,” Xiao said. “Then, I got interested in studying awareness of activities in rationale space — how rationale plays a role in learning activities.”

Xiao said her interest in the topic of shared rationale was sparked when she was working on a case-based learning project for Carroll, her adviser and director of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction. There is a growing interest in investigating the effects of shared reflections in group activities, she said. It is shown that shared reflection improves the members’ understanding of the others’ roles and contributions.

“My focus was to look at how awareness of rationales affected group activity,” she said.

Xiao’s and Carroll’s paper reports a classroom study in which group learners brainstormed ideas in virtual group space and justified their ideas through articulating their rationales in the shared rationale space. The researchers conducted their initial study in a junior-level undergraduate class on project management. They designed a collaborative learning activity as part of the group term project for the course, and developed a collaborative tool to support the activity.

Xiao said she is continuing to explore the effects of shared rationales in collective activities, and the development of computational techniques to automatically detect rationales.

“Currently, I’m working on ways to detect rationale-texts in online interactions,” she said. “Basically, identifying ways to associate people’s opinions with their rationales or justifications to help individuals be better aware of other people’s perspectives.”

Xiao will join the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University in fall 2016.

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Last Updated May 26, 2016